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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visits Washington D.C. on Thursday to lobby Congress for more aid and meet with President Joe Biden as cracks are appearing in support for his battle against Russia.
Zelensky will make stops on Capitol Hill, at the Pentagon and finish off his day at the White House as he tries to preserve a critical line of funding for war efforts.
His visit comes as a group of Republican lawmakers warned the White House it opposes Biden’s request for $24 billion in aid to Ukraine and as Moscow is raining its biggest missile attack in weeks at targets across his country.
Additionally, Poland announced it will stop sending weapons to Ukraine – a blow to Zelensky and adding pressure to his quest for more support from the United States.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is welcomed to the Capitol by House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries
Zelensky will start his day on Capitol Hill where he’ll meet with House leaders and then with senators in the Old Senate Chamber, a rare priviledge for world leaders.
The entire Senate will be there to greet him.
He faces a cooler reception across the Capitol on the House side. Zelensky asked to deliver another joint address to Congress, as he did last December, Punchbowl News reported, but Speaker Kevin McCarthy denied the request.
Zelensky will meet with the speaker, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, and other committee chairs and ranking members on the first floor of the Capitol.
Members of the Congressional Ukraine Caucus and other lawmakers are expected to meet with him at the National Archives later Thursday morning.
Zelensky will make his plea for support as Ukraine’s neighbor, Poland, announced it will no longer provide weapons to Kyiv.
‘We are no longer transferring weapons to Ukraine, because we are now arming Poland with more modern weapons,’ Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said.
Tensions between Warsaw and Kyiv, sparked by Poland’s ban on Ukrainian grain imports to protect the interests of its farmers, have intensified in recent days.
Poland was one Ukraine’s earliest and staunchest allies after Russia invaded. It has taken in over a million refugees.
In the US, Zelensky will have to appeal to House Republicans, who have made clear they oppose more funding for the Ukraine. McCarthy’s stop-gap resolution to keep the government running while lawmakers negotiate a full budget deal lacks any funding for Kyiv.
And now 29 GOP lawmakers wrote to the Biden’s budget chief to express their concners about how much has already been given to the Ukraine – $100 billion – and to complain the Biden administration supports an ‘open-ended commitment’ to the country.
They argue Americans need more information on the war effort.
‘How is the counteroffensive going? Are the Ukrainians any closer to victory than they were 6 months ago? What is our strategy, and what is the president’s exit plan?’ they write.
McCarthy has made similar comments.
‘I think a lot of people have the question: What’s the strategy to win?’ he said to reporters on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.
But Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell does support funding Ukraine’s war effort although some conservatives in the upper chamber think the U.S. has done enough to help Kyiv.
A framed flag signed by front-line Ukrainian fighters in Bakhmut and presented to the U.S. Congress in 2022, sits at one end of the table where Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy will meet privately with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and other leaders
Speaker Kevin McCarthy has questioned U.S. funding for Ukraine
Zelensky will also meet with President Joe Biden, who arrived back in Washington on Wednesday night after meetings at the UN
The Biden administration continues to push for more funding.
Zelensky’s visit comes at a ‘critical time, as Russia is reaching out’ to countries like North Korea and Iran, White House spokesman John Kirby said on Wednesday.
Biden can get a ‘battlefield perspective,’ when he meets with Zelensky in the Oval Office, Kirby noted.
While Zelensky was out of the country, Russia upped its aerial campaign, damaging energy facilities and causing power outages in several region.
Moscow targeted Lviv in the west, near the border with Poland, and Kharkiv, close to Ukraine’s eastern front lines, as well as Kyiv, Cherkasy and Rivne.
Zelensky arrives in Washington after addressing the UN General Assembly as part of the body’s annual meeting.
He also addressed the U.N. Security Council, where he got tough, accusing it of inaction on Russia’s invasion of his country.
‘Most of the world recognizes the truth about this war,’ Zelensky said.
‘We should recognize that the U.N. finds itself in a deadlock on the matters of aggression,’ he noted.